High profile cases of police killings of unarmed Black people have brought a number of issues to the forefront in the past few months. Black Lives Matter emerged as a response, and there are number of other organizations that are responding to this national crisis. One of these is the Metropolitan Black Bar Association. The MBBA is the largest organization representing lawyers of color in New York City.
Polite On Society reached out to Paula Edgar, the president of the MBBA. We spoke about some of the issues that mar police and community relations, along with some initiatives to address these concerns. Black lawyers can be powerful advocates on behalf of the community, and that is precisely what Edgar intends to be.
“We are not going to be a silent force” said Edgar in a phone interview about forthcoming initatives. There have been a number of discussions around police community relations, with some of the findings being publicized in the 2015 report from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s Office. In an upcoming “I Am A Solution” town hall meeting with the NYPD and the MBBA, the organization intends to push for implementation of reforms. One of which would be a standardized implicit bias curriculum, and more training for police officers before they get a gun. They also want to gather information about the use of force, and track trends if they are found.
Building on an earlier “I am A Solution” town hall, the intent of these urgent calls for reform are to begin to change the conversation that emerges about police and community relations. With every incident, tensions heighten, resulting in making needed discussions that are much more difficult to have. The MBBA would also like to explore advocacy for the criminalization of chokeholds. Considering the discussion around the DeBlasio Administration failing to release records on the officer who used the chokehold on Eric Garner, this reform is much needed. In addition, they have also released a Call To Action on their website, outlining steps that we as individuals can take regarding the police shootings. It includes a number of resources for those who are interested in long term solutions to these pressing issues.